Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Throughout this Easter season, I have shared with you my conviction that “Faith in the resurrection comes slowly, but when it comes, it changes everything.” And so, we have reflected on the changes that the resurrection brings. We began with the elimination of fear and doubt and the word of forgiveness; we continued with the promise of protection and security and a changed perspective on the world through love. Last week we contemplated the promise spoken in farewells. “Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you until we meet again.” Today, we turn to God’s final gift of the resurrection- the promise of his ongoing presence.
In Scripture we are taught, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings.” 2 Timothy 3:14. The task seems simple enough, but based on the prayers of our children, we may need to focus our efforts.
“Dear God, I went to this wedding and they were kissing right there in church. Is that OK?” “Dear God, thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy.”
“Dear God, I love Christmas and Easter. Could you please put another holiday in the middle, there’s nothing good in there now.”
“Dear God, are you actually invisible or is that just a trick?”
Even the pastor’s 5 year-old daughter had a skewed understanding of prayer. She noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day she asked him why. “Well, Honey,” he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his non-verbal messages, “I’m asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon.” She answered innocently enough, “Then how come he doesn’t do it?”
On this Mother’s Day, we are reminded that mothers have always had the primary role faith nurturers. It’s not that fathers do not share in this responsibility, but scriptures admonishes men to be careful and gentle. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
Certainly fathers say that they pray for their children and for their own patience in living with them, but truth be told, most often, fathers pray that their children will grow up to be just like them- and that their children will respect their authority. I am reminded of the four-year-old boy in the South who was misbehaving so much in worship, that his father was forced to pick him up and carry him out of church. On his way out, the little toddler called out over his father’s shoulder, “Y’all, pray for me, please!”
Mothers, on the other hand, pray for their children’s very life and well-being. From the moment she first holds a child in her arms, a mother sighs. “I hold you in my arms And together we softly sway As I rock you to sleep And this is what I pray: I pray for your safety Your health and happiness, too I ask God to wrap you in his love In Everything You do.” Mothers pray for patience, strength and encouragement- especially in the difficult moments of life. That is exactly what Jesus was praying for his disciples in this morning’s gospel.
With that said, what prayers and scriptures should we teach our children? The prayers we say for our children often change as they pass through the seasons of life- and so do we. In the season called spring our children are invited to discern their gifts and talents. No doubt, in your youth, you heard words of encouragement and discernment from mothers and fathers, teachers and friends. You can probably remember the face and the voice of that special person who led you along life’s way. You may also remember that often your parents, your teachers and mentors spent a lot of their time on the sidelines, loving you and encouraging you from a distance.
Most children, however, are properly oblivious to what their parents are experiencing. They often realize it later painfully when they become parents themselves. And yet they still busily pray for a miracle. Not the miracle of birth- but for the miracle of self-discovery and of enjoying life and of being protected from anything that would destroy that peace. And along the way, our mothers need affirmation to keep up their work. Simply saying, “I love you” to your mother may be miracle enough.
In the summer of life our children are invited to use and invest their talents to see what will “grow.” Most often in the summer it is no longer about discerning gifts, but rather it is about learning to use their talents and gifts wisely. Summer is the time of intensive labor; when adult children may need to be reminded of their value. At such a time, they may dismiss the prayers and encouragement of their mothers. Parents, what do they know about my work? Believe me, mothers are still watching. They watch as their children “sweat” and toil; and are sometimes discouraged. But mothers knows when their children have found that place where their passion and productivity meet. That is what they pray for. It is a different kind of miracle. “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling deeply alive.” Thick Nhat Hanh.
In the fall of life children often step back to admire the ripened fruit of their labors, a mother’s prayers is that that her children may see how others are blessed by their work. It is no surprise that as children leave home, parents develop a sudden confidence in their own skills. God often calls us in this season to nurture and mentor others. But there may also be a time of emptiness. It is often in the fall of life, when life’s disappointment and regrets stand out most clearly on your horizon. You may wake one morning to discover that there is no mother or father watching over you or praying for you. You remember their thoughts and words, and sometime with regrets. “Love your parents and treat them with loving care. One day you’ll know their value when you see their empty chair.”
Trust me, your mother’s voice may be heard echoing in your memories longing for a miracle. I can still hear my mother’s voice calling me in the morning and urging me to change any last bad habits. “Pray until your situation changes. Miracles happen every day, so never stop believing. God can change things very quickly in your life.”
Finally, there is winter. It is a time for reflecting on the treasures you will leave behind for your children. Hopefully, one of the gifts you will leave is the promise of God’s ongoing presence offered in Christ’ resurrection. It is the promise of God’s strength and forgiveness even when you are gone.
Unfortunately for many, the promises of the resurrection that we have meditated on in this Easter season are often relegated to the church’s confession of faith. It is something we profess every Sunday but with no real practical meaning. Yes, every Easter, we go through the motions of celebrating the resurrection, but how often do we stop and say that the resurrection makes a difference in how we live our life today? Or that it is a gift we hope our children will embrace? That should be the legacy that we long for our children.
Calm exteriors are hard to manage, especially with age. My mother’s bifocals drove her and us crazy. She would stand for minutes waiting at the bottom of the escalator till her eyes had focused while I was waiting at the top. It’s only in recent years when I’ve noticed difficulty reading the menu in restaurants. I am convinced that they are dimmer watt bulbs, or smaller print. Now, I simply point to a blurry line on the menu and hope for the best. Unfortunately, I was caught. I gestured at a line on the menu, and said, “I’ll have this.” The waiter replied, “Ah yes, We Do Not Accept Personal Checks.” It didn’t help that I added, “And I would like that medium rare.” The waiter was convinced that I was both blind and deaf.
But the promise of the resurrection is more than a calm exterior when the world is in turmoil around you. The promise of the resurrection is a confidence and peace that even in your surrendering you will enjoy his victory. That confidence is found in prayer and in knowing Jesus. There are countless lessons that mothers can teach their children, but there is no lesson more powerful than the story of the resurrection. Jesus himself understood the necessity of teaching the resurrection. And so on the night he was betrayed, Jesus taught his disciples how they must embody God’s peace found in the resurrection even when the world is falling down around them. “And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”
That is what Jesus was praying for in his prayer for his disciples, and what you and I are encouraged to teach our children in reading scripture, worship and prayer. The resurrection is not simply the “happy ending” after Jesus’ death. It’s the happy beginning of God’s new creation. “Faith in the resurrection, after all, comes slowly, but when it comes, it changes everything.”
My friends, we have a job to do in order for the next generation to know and trust that Christ’s resurrection is the one promise they can believe in. It is a challenge for us, just as it was for Jesus’ own disciples. But what a difference faith in the resurrection makes. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings.” Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.